The Banality of Grading
|As stated earlier, I am teaching undergraduate courses in English and Ethics at state schools in Utah this semester. Generally it is a rewarding experience. However, I am currently caught in an ethical dilemma of sorts.|
My English job is to help these kids learn how to write good research papers. It is my responsibility to facilitate their attempts at research and to help them form good arguments. Ideally, they will learn to produce convincing arguments thanks, in part, to what I have taught them.
I have a student is experiencing or who has just experienced an LDS crisis of faith. He has been on a mission and so forth, but now doubts the truth of many of Joseph Smith's claims about himself. Having given my students the opportunity to choose their own topics of research, he has chosen to write about the theories of Jon Krakauer regarding Joseph Smith and Mormonism.
I should point out that he is the type of rhetoritician who is easily convinced by his own arguments. I feel like he is using this paper as an opportunity to convince himself that abandoning his religion is the right thing for him to do. It is my responsibility to help him find the best way to present his arguments so that they will be persuasive. I have to make sure that his research is as thorough as possible and that his presentation is ultimately rational. But, if I do my job, I am contributing to his journey of "apostasy" (ie. falling away). Isn't that bad for me to do?
I cannot express my discomfort to him, because that could (and probably would) be perceived as an attempt to influence him religiously. Besides, it isn't my responsibility. There is, I am sure, a church support group somewhere in his life that is trying to convince him of the error of his ways. I have to do the job that I was hired to do. But, I feel that I may not be doing the morally correct thing here from an LDS perspective. I realize that his belief is ultimately a matter of his choice, but am I wrong for possibly facilitating this choice? Aren't I a lousy instructor if I don't facilitate his choice?
Obviously, there are legal and social mores that prevent me from telling this student that he is wrong to engage in this line of inquiry, if he is doing it to validate his choice. I just feel a bit like a spiritual Eichmann, giving him the rope necessary to hang himself.